Friday, March 17, 2017

Mammi Jane

Most grandmothers want to be remembered by their families. If that means that they come back in the afterlife to check up on their loved ones, then so be it. But maybe there are other reasons for their haunting activity. This local account was told to me several years ago:

One Fall night many years ago, Hennie Becker, of Hunterstown, Pennsylvania, curled up in bed with a new book. At about ten o’clock she happened to glance up from the pages. Her grandmother was standing beside the bed. There would have been nothing odd about that, except that Mammi Jane had been dead for several years and was buried at the family homestead in Lancaster Co. But still, Hennie recognized her immediately even though the apparition was that of a younger woman dressed in a plain frock and a white 'prayer cap.' A feeling of warmth and love filled the room as the ghost smiled down at Hennie and nodded. Hennie called out to her husband, but the ghost vanished before he came into the bedroom. He contended that she had been dreaming. She insisted she had not. Suddenly all the window shades in the room snapped up at once. "Well, that's Mammi Jane", her husband said with a chuckle, remembering that his wife’s grandmother had been a bit playful, and not as reverent as most Mennonite grandmothers. Perhaps Hennie had not been dreaming.

Hennie believed her grandmother materialized at that moment to see her first great-grandson, Hennie’s baby, who had been born recently. She herself had cared for Hennie as an infant and Mammi Jane remained close to Hennie and her family over the years. Mammi Jane’s ghost returned again several years later when the Beckers moved to Mt. Holly Springs. Pat had lovingly transformed a small room into a family memento space, with old folk art, photographs, books and her ancestors’ antiques.

One day Hennie found a frame with a photo of Mammi Jane and another photo of her husband's grandparents laying face down on the floor. The glass was not broken; the hanger was still attached to the plaster wall. Hennie placed the framed photos back on the wall, but several days later found it again face down on the floor. This time the hook had come out of the wall. She found a sturdier hanger and put the picture back up. But the picture and its hanger continued to fall. Sometimes it was on the floor early in the morning; at other times, Hennie found it there after coming home later in the day. Hennie’s husband thought the picture either fell because of some vibrations or that the family cat knocked it down. Yet that picture was the only one of the many wall hangings disturbed. One of the Becker sons had his own opinion. He suggested to his mother that Mammi Jane had come back because she didn’t like being in the same frame as his father's grandparents! For a time the family joked about the suggestion.

When Hennie's parents came to visit, she told them about the falling frame. Her mother offered another explanation. In her later years, perhaps due to dementia, Mammi Jane was determined to destroy all photographs of herself. She had thrown away every photograph that she could find, and even cut her own image out of all the group pictures in the family albums. Hennie had never known about that. Hennie had no idea whether Mammi Jane really was continuing her crusade to erase photographic proof of her existence even after death. Perhaps she was and perhaps she eventually gave up. Mammi Jane was not heard from again.

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